Oral history of British science
Raynor, Frank (Part 11 of 18) An Oral History of British Science
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Interviewee's home, Abingdon
Raynor, Frank, 1922- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 11: [01:18:27] Remarks on work in run up to Buffalo tests: FR installing recording equipment designed by Jimmy Hogg at Harwell; importance of Harwell designed instruments to early Aldermaston efforts; use of combination of Harwell and FR group designed equipment; improvement of equipment since earlier tests; installation of instruments in shelters, lower humidity at Maralinga site, electrical supply by army generators; anecdote about generator blown away by blast of later test. [05:50] Comments on Maralinga semi-permanent test area in South Australian desert: journey to test by comfortable airliner, anecdote about novelty of airline and children meeting him at airport on return helped by Aldermaston admin, staged flight out via Singapore, staying at the Raffles Hotel, FR passport; [11:20] journey from Adelaide to Maralinga by air; facilities at site when he arrived; description of Maralinga site, mulga trees, satisfactory accommodation, Ken Douglas' piano playing in bar. [15:10] Remarks on working at Maralinga: anecdote about packing of equipment; comparison of Maralinga and Montebello sites; road around site; relationship with Australians; assistance of two Canadian sergeants and an army Major; anecdote about frosty reception at Freemantle pub on earlier test; [20:28] summary of duties installing equipment to record explosion effects; installation of equipment, difficulties of some personnel driving straight gearbox vehicles; time-scales; Buffalo series of four nuclear tests, one an air-drop. [24:39] Description of installing equipment: comparison of Royal Navy and Australian's skills at transporting equipment; unpacking equipment; transport to shelters spaced at appropriate distances from test; installation of instruments and recorders into bunkers; shortage of staff, aid of Canadians, but FR mostly working alone; anecdote about checking for scorpions. [29:28] Remarks on: Frank Hill's hobby of collecting local wildlife with help of FR and others, anecdote about FR collecting lizards; flowers, Sturt Desert Pea; time off in evenings, evening in bar and reading; heavy workload in day; visits to town of Watson, anecdote about vehicles sunk in salt lakes; description of Watson, baby eagles; [35:25] FR helping Ken Douglas install equipment in remote areas; surveyor Lenny Beadell's account of regular punctures driving through bush; limited supervision, Nobby Clarke trusting staff to work. [37:55] Remarks on instrumentation: purpose to test what happens at instant of explosion and seconds afterwards; description of use of oscilloscopes in single shot mode, recorded by camera; discussion of triggering of instruments and oscilloscope and high level of precision involved; [45:35] variable reliability of equipment. [46:35] Description of layout of Maralinga test site: surrounded by red desert; airfield; nearby military observer's camp. Remarks on military personnel observing atomic tests: officers sometimes coming out on trips with technicians; anecdote about Colonel helping out by making the tea. [50:23] Further remarks on Maralinga: forward area used for testing; instrument lanes; groups testing various effects of atomic weapons, including on military equipment; secrecy on site; [50:30] groups responsible for weapon; involvement of RAF groups, FR training RAF personnel previously in instruments previously; untrained personnel not allowed to fly to high altitudes; modifications to Canberra to allow higher altitude flying; [57:45] FR limited involvement with weapons group, later flying out with Frank Hill from firing group; FR knowledge of what to expect on each test. [59:50] Remarks on weapons tests: four tests in total in range of conditions; One-Tree twenty kiloton test; naming of tests, as covered by Lorna Arnold's books; variation of FR memories of tests, similarity of work on different tests. [1:02:35] Description of FR activities on typical test: priming equipment in shelters; return to forward control for test; return to collect records from shelter instruments with army for developing. [1:04:20] Remarks on test: description of forward control; importance of Ieuan Maddock or Frank Hill count down on PA system to control sequence of equipment starting; depiction of forward control in film of event, example of setting up veriac; FR feelings waiting for countdown; conditions in forward control during test; [1:07:43] experience of seeing a mushroom cloud in person, difficulty judging scale of event; radiation detectors; FR not overly worried by radiation, anecdote about colleague Mike Forrest concluding that radiation was responsible for FR's long life; radiation safety levels, frequent medical checks after trails; anecdote about Aldermaston Medical Officer Dr Lynch convincing FR and others to stop smoking after reading an article in The Lancet; [1:13:45] knowledge of radiation exposure, constant monitoring; FR opinion on heath concerns surrounding nuclear test veterans, anecdote about FR later meeting a former nuclear test RAF veteran at Culham who blamed his cataracts on Christmas Island bomb tests; FR lack of health problems.
Interview with technician, Frank Raynor